The idea of mentoring is not new. Mentor was a character in Homer’s Odyssey. As a friend of King Odysseus, Mentor was given the job of teaching and caring for the king’s son, Telemachus.
Mentor may have provided the name, but the concept had been around for a long time. Examples of mentoring are found throughout the text of the Bible. The first example is in Genesis; God is mentoring Adam. Moses mentored Joshua. Elijah mentored Elisha. Barnabas mentored Mark and Paul. Biblical examples of mentoring are not exclusive to men; Naomi mentored Ruth, and Elizabeth mentored Mary. Jesus mentored the twelve disciples.
Today’s business is in need of a resurgence of strong mentoring systems. Discouraged and disgruntled employees hop from one job to the next looking for work that is intellectually stimulating, fun, and economically rewarding.
Nothing will stop some employees from job-hopping, but a strong mentoring system can reduce turnover by increasing job satisfaction and productivity among current employees.
Mentoring as a Strategic Choice
As a leader, manager, or professional you must understand that mentoring is a strategic choice.
A good mentoring system does not happen by coincidence. You must take care to create a mentoring system, nurture it, and build it into the culture of your organization. Mentoring must become a part of the weave of the fabric of your corporate culture. If you are not willing to do whatever is necessary to create and protect an environment where mentoring can exist, then you would be better off not to start.
The Mentoring Relationship
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines a mentor as, “a trusted counselor or guide, a coach, a tutor.” The phrase “a trusted counselor” is key. It defines the relationship between mentor and mentee as one in which there is a bond of trust. Also, a “counselor’s” role is to provide guidance – not remold the mentee into their likeness.
The relationship between mentor and mentee is similar to that between a teacher and student. A teacher seeks to educate a group of students. A teacher is judged successful if they can impart knowledge to the student. The student “trusts” that they are receiving accurate and timely information.
As a mentee, you should look for a mentor who:
- Is someone you can admire.
- Is someone who believes in the importance of people.
- Is someone who believes in and is committed to the mentoring relationship.
- Is someone who has a positive outlook.
- Is someone who can provide experience, perspective, and guidance.
As a mentor, you should look for a mentee who:
- Is someone who is willing, and teachable.
- Is someone who can apply what they are learning.
- Is someone who is committed to the mentoring relationship.
- Is someone who will respect you as a mentor.
- Is someone who will be accountable.
These ten points can be summarized as mutual respect, wholehearted commitment to each other, the willingness to teach, the willingness to learn, and accountability.
One Final Thought
Building a mentoring system will not be an easy task. It will require careful thought and delicate nurturing. But if you succeed, you will have happier, more productive employees and managers.
Jesus was a mentor to the disciples. We should be mentors. Encourage someone else to do works greater than yours.
This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, “Mentoring — A Lifestyle for Growth.”
This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of mentoring, including:
- A broader discussion of the mentoring relationship,
- The five essential attributes of a mentor,
- The importance of allowing a mentee to fail, and
- Six steps to help you start a formal mentoring program.
You can download the whitepaper here: “Mentoring — A Lifestyle for Growth.”
Join the Conversation
As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you participated in a formal or informal mentoring program as a mentor/mentee? How did that relationship help/hurt performance?
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Category: Skills | Human Resource Development